Another time, another stifling day, but this time in the afternoon. Time to go home. But so it was for everyone else.
I walked up to the bus stop. I was tired, my feet hurt and slipped in my sandals. I only had my bus fare in my hand. I certainly didn’t look like a tourist. Home haircut, a weathered skin, I could never boast a sun tan, even later after three years in Guyana I never went more than off white. The harsh soap powders took their toll on the material of my dresses.
Waiting for the bus. Soon come. And I thought buses in England were bad. Eventually the mirage of heat wrinkling road and bus wobbled into one, dust and diesel fumes mixed in. I stuck my hand out and flapped at it. It stopped and I pulled my foot up the high steps.
The bus was crowded, but someone getting off meant that I was near a seat the next time somebody else got off. As the bus lurched onwards with a metallic screech, I jammed myself into a chair back. No comforts, green metal for seats, dull sheen on the floor and sides. Some posters up. Windows open ineffectually. A lady reached out for my bag and I gave it to her gratefully. I could hang on with both hands now. One on a strap and one on a chair back. The metal and my hand slipping with sweat.
The gears screeched again, we were thrown forward, steadied and then gained momentum. Up to the Half Way Tree stop. The lady holding my bag got off and I slid into her seat. I wiggled my ankles round, they were swelling. A cold shower, a cold drink, it was hard to believe that I would put a cardigan on in about four hours time and be glad of a blanket tonight.
We weren’t moving. A low murmur, no more. Buses only really started buzzing as night grew. What was wrong now? I looked out of the window as best as I could. I didn’t like the look of what I saw. There was an untidy stream of people straggling down towards our bus. The earlier bus had broken down. I looked in disbelief, my mind not wanting to admit what would happen next.
Each bus could take about fifty seated and another twenty standing, officially and not counting the children. We took on the whole of the other bus. I think I had the basket of oranges, the lady in front had the chickens. Even the babies were passed over heads to a safe seat. It was at this stage that I recognised prejudice, pure unadulterated prejudice on my part….
Never mind petrol shortages, parts shortages, generosity of bus driver and passengers, never mind the effects of colonialism, under-development, world bank loans and debts, Jamaicans were stupid, disorganised, unbearable and… not white English…
Steep learning curves begin…